Looking back at 2018

Dear Friend,

Thanks to your support and God’s provision, 2018 was a monumental year for Music for Life! Together, we made a tremendous impact on the children and communities we serve.

While it’s difficult to quantify our work with mere numbers, we feel it’s important to measure the impact we’re making so we can see the bigger picture and the broader story God is writing through you, our staff, volunteers, church and ministry partners, and the very children we work with.

We hope you’re inspired/encouraged by the impact you’ve helped us make, and that you enjoy reading the experiences of some of the people whose lives you’ve helped changed.
Music for Life 2018
Music for a Life 2018 at a glance

We are Music for Life – the charity that runs the African Children’s Choir and Ubuntu Africa touring programs. In addition to the quality education programs we provide, a significant part our mission is to reach children through our Music for Life outreach programs. These programs provide a spiritual and motivational lifeline for other children in desperate need back in Africa.  

Read more about Music for Life Outreach Programs.

African Children's Choir Primary School
Providing a quality education to the children who have traveled with the African Children’s Choir is one of our highest priorities. This means creating an environment where children not only have access to the best learning tools, but are also allowed to express themselves, think critically and feel safe. We celebrate local culture through music and dance and our faith through daily devotions. The children also reach their neighbors through mercy projects delivering food, acts of service and through prayer.  

Our Primary 7 students took their Uganda national exams in November and will be moving on to high school next year.  We celebrated the graduation of 24 students in 2018. 
ACCPS
African Children's Choir Ronald

In a letter to you, Ronald, who toured with Choir 22 and Young Africans 2, talks about his life in the slum area of Kisumu, Uganda, before tour. He discusses losing his father and the detrimental effect it had on his mother and five siblings, and details the “profound impact” the choir had on his life, leading to Ronald graduating with a First-Class Honors in Telecommunications and Information Technology from Kenyatta University in 2018. 

Read Ronald’s empowering words here.

Ubuntu Africa took Australia by storm during a three-month tour from Melbourne to Brisbane. The performances moved people to standing ovations in almost every location and the Choir members and team made a massive impact on Australian communities. 

A few years ago African Children’s Choir creatives, Choir Director, Barbara Serungoji, Technical Director, Andrew Stanley and International Director of Choir Operations, Julia Barnett-Tracy brainstormed about producing a new album and touring show for the Choir. The result was a merging of two worlds, infusing traditional Western Hymns with the vibrant musical style of Uganda.

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Empower International Academy

The construction of phase I of our Empower International Academy is complete! This secondary level school will bring an international standard Christian education to members of the African Children’s Choir and beyond. Please pray with us as we continue to develop the campus and search for the best people to lead our education, discipleship and leadership programs. The school will open to students in February 2020. We would like to thank Engineering Ministries International, USAID ASHA, Living Water International, Ecclesia Church and Empower African Children for support and partnership on this project. 

In 2018 the children featured in the Bernstein Mass, performed at the Long Center in Austin, TX. This epic work, directed by Maestro Peter Bay of the Austin Symphony Orchestra, was organized to celebrate the 100th birthday of the late composer Leonard Bernstein. The African Children’s Choir learned liturgical passages in Latin and joined over 300 performers including the Austin Children’s Choir, Ballet Austin, Conspirare, Ballet Austin and the Austin Symphony Orchestra for two sold out concerts. The experience was a tour highlight for the children, and they warmed the hearts of thousands of audience members. 

With our heartfelt gratitude, we thank you for continuing to be part of the Music for Life family.

Blessings,
Scott Lambie
Director of Development

Between Friends – March

Battling the cycle of poverty is a dynamic challenge, a challenge that requires long-term commitment, investment and consistency amidst harsh environments. It requires overcoming many obstacles and an unwavering faith that God will continue to guide, provide and lead us to His plan in our lives. Each year we celebrate our university graduates. This year we are highlighting young women who have overcome their circumstances to achieve milestones that are statistically stacked against them. Please meet some of our 2017 university graduates:

 

Shirley
Nkomazi Choir

Shirley graduated with a diploma in clinical engineering from Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria and is now employed at a medical technology company in Johannesburg.

 

 

 

 

 

Linnet
Choir 21

After graduating High School, she toured with the first Young Africans, after which she returned back home and joined Makerere University. She is now a graduate with a degree in music, dance, and drama, as a dance major. Linnet also toured with Choir 47 as the choir conductor.

 

 

 

 

Patricia
Choir 19

Patricia graduated from Kyambogo University with a degree in social work and community development. As a social worker, she hopes to work with disadvantaged children, to help them make the best choices in life. Patricia is forever grateful for the work of the African Children’s Choir.

 

 

 

Sandra
Choir 19

Sandra graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from Makerere University. She can’t wait to make the world a better place with her journalism skills.

 

 

 

 

 

Vanessa
Nkomazi Choir

Vanessa attended her graduation with friends and family as she received a diploma in human resource management. Vanessa has been working in the Nelspruit Municipality HR department since her placement as part of her course.

 

 

 

 

Deborah
Choir 21

Deborah graduated with a degree in ethics and human rights from Makerere University. She is very excited to make the world a better place.

 

 

 

 

 

Eveline
Choir 22

Eveline graduated with a degree in environmental science from Egerton University, Kenya.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robinah
Choir 24

Robinah graduated with a degree in development economics from Makerere University. She hopes to pursue a successful career as an economist or accountant.

 

 

 

 

 

Priscilla
Choir 23

Priscilla graduated with a degree in international relations Uganda Christian University. She hopes to become the force of change in Uganda’s governance system someday.

 

 

 

 

 

Naomi
Choir 21

Naomi graduated with a degree in information technology and business computing from Makerere University Business School. Naomi will also be graduating with top honors, with a CGPA of 4.68 (The best grade being a CGPA of 5).

 

 

 

 

 

Justine
Choir 21

Justine graduated with a degree in ethics and human rights from Makerere University. Justine hopes to reach out to her community through humanitarian work, advocating for children’s rights here in Uganda, so that they too can have their rights fulfilled such as a right to having an education and also living a life free of violence.

 

 

 

Joyce
Choir 23

Joyce graduated with a degree in tourism from Makerere University.“Through the Choir, I got a loving big family and friends who have always loved and supported me in everything I do.”

 

 

 

 

 

Esther
Choir 23

Esther graduated with a certificate in midwifery from Nsambya Hospital Training School. Esther is also working with the African Children’s Choir as the school nurse.

 

 

 

 

 

Allen
Choir 21

Allen graduated with a certificate in clinical medicine and community health from International Health Sciences University, Uganda. She says she cannot wait to make the difference in her country through serving in the health sector.

 

 

 

 

Grace
Choir 24

Grace graduated with an advanced diploma in information systems from Akilah Institute in Kigali, Rwanda. Grace says she feels empowered by her education to focus on building customized web applications for business. Grace also enjoys volunteering with Music for Life outreach programs in Rwanda.

 

 

 

 

Empower International Academy

Empower International Academy

In December 2016 we broke ground on Empower International Academy. The project seemed quite impossible a few years ago when it was nothing but an idea on spreadsheets and a few structural drawings. The purpose of the project was to deliver an international standard, Christian-character focused education program to the next generation of African Children’s Choir members and beyond.

It was a big leap of faith to move forward with our plans and there were plenty of potential risks, delays, and discouragements. We are a relatively small organization and to pull this off we would need plenty of help. We partnered with Empower African Children, an organization with a similar vision and like-minded team. Engineering Ministries International came on board to draw up plans and manage construction, Living Water International and Ecclesia Church secured a clean water supply. Kwaya Australia and some very generous friends caught the vision and have supported the project financially. We are so grateful to God for the amazing work and people He has brought together to pursue this dream.

Now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We expect the construction of phase I to be complete in May with high-quality structures in place and finances managed to budget. Our education consultant has lent international Christian education expertise to the framework of the curriculum, policies and staffing needs and we are confident that our first students will begin classes in February of 2019.

We would like to thank everyone who has been a part of getting this project this far. Please enjoy a few photos from the ongoing construction of the school. God is faithful!

We would like to thank everyone who has been a part of getting this project this far. We have just a few more needs to complete this project, please click here for more information. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through the eyes of…

… a chaperone on tour

IMG_4367This post is from Molly Kirk, one of our development representatives based out of Denver, CO. Molly had the unique opportunity to meet the children of Choir 40 while they were at our African Children’s Choir Training Academy in Kampala, Uganda and as a result of a lot of doors that only the Lord could have opened, is blessed to have the opportunity to advocate for the Choir both remotely in Colorado, and at times on tour itself. She has spent over 6 weeks on tour with this Choir so far, and every time she sees them she is reminded just how powerful their testimonies are. She can only hope her voice someday makes as much of a noise in advocating for the children of Africa as the children’s voices do during their concerts.

Below is Molly’s reaction to her first time seeing the Choir perform in the States:

There are sixteen children in the 40th African Children’s Choir. Eight little boys and eight little girls who are nothing short of amazing. They are soft-spoken, obedient, almost shy in demeanor. They have great respect for their elders, stand in line, and respond in unison. To them, everyone is an “Auntie” or an “Uncle.” They finish everything on their plates, and never complain about what they are served, evidence of the true gratitude that exudes from them. They even have a thank you song for every meal host churches prepare for them. Some of them are only 7 years old, their foreheads press into your rib cage when they enfold you in their tiny but strong embrace. To see them in their embroidered sweatshirts and neon sneakers, in their play clothes, they are so small.

But when they sing.

When they sing they are seven feet tall. Their smiles and their expressions and their voices tower. They radiate a joy and a confidence that anyone would find enviable. Many of the songs are begun by the voice of one. Five brave little fingers reach for a microphone and a single child pipes out several lines of praise before more voices join in-harmonizing in a sound of pure, innocent beauty such as only children can make. And if their voices weren’t enough, they sing many of the songs in two different languages, and thank you for coming in four.

All of this in front of a sanctuary filled with hundreds of strangers. Sometimes the voices quaver, ever so slightly, and sometimes the microphone is held a little too far from a child’s moving lips. But they press on, as they always do, and soon the swell of a chorus of voices drown out timidity and the audience is won over, doubly.

And when they dance.

When they dance the audience is awed into stillness. Shock of color and movement. Eight year olds sing into a microphone while they stomp out a beat, and spin in circles, even jump across the stage. Satin yellow dresses and headbands sway to music- as vibrant as the voices that they adorn. Shimmery pants and traditional African tops are only the background to intricately embroidered patterns that are each similar in design, but as unique as the child who wears them.

Costume change and the stage is filled with tangerine-orange juxtaposed against beautiful brown skin, and skirts that have strings of shells, and little boys who pound out rhythms on African drums as though they were warrior-men. The beat on the drums is so driving, the cadence so mesmerizing, the timing so impressive, one forgets that these could ever be children, like Mark, who are still waiting for their front teeth to grow back in.

Before the concerts, there is always a time of prayer, and the children ask God to help them smile nicely while they perform.

He does.

For an entire 80 minutes, radiant smiles, and radiant colors and radiant sound overwhelm the senses and warm the hearts of all who have the privilege of attending. When the choir sings, “the world is a village now, and it isn’t very large” the entire audience resonates with their message and the children are no longer singing to strangers. They are singing to aunties and uncles. To brothers and sisters. To their global family. And as this family learns their stories of triumph and trial, they become invested.

Because the stories of the children are ones worth being told.

And because these stories are only the visible tip of the iceberg. So much lies beneath the surface. But their presence and their lives are witness to the fact that the many deep, invisible needs of Africa can be addressed, one life at a time. Because people in the West are able to see the tip of the iceberg, through the children, resources are being pooled to reach the incredible need below the surface, and thousands are being given an opportunity for education, for hope, for becoming the leaders of tomorrow.

And that is why so many pour their hearts into bringing a bus load of African children into the Western world.

The transcending beauty of a beat and a tune and a smile.

The power of God shouting through the small lungs of children.

A melodic call to action that begs the response of nations.

By: Molly Kirk

If you would like to experience the unforgettable feeling of watching the African Children’s Choir perform visit our See the Choir page to find out when they’ll be delighting audiences next in your area.

If you would be interested in volunteering or becoming a chaperone, you can read more about those opportunities here.

"Sing" is unveiled

“Sing” the official song for Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee created by Gary Barlow and featuring the African Children’s Choir has been presented to the world. Watch the video below…

Update from Auntie Jenny

Here is a wonderful update from Auntie Jenny, one of our chaperones on Choir 38. It is a letter that she has written to her supporters and she has graciously agreed to share it with you all.

How do you see the world?

I have always seen shape and design wherever I look. I was that kid who always saw pictures in the clouds in the sky, in the grain on a wood door, and in the textured “spackling” on the ceiling. When you look for shapes and designs in the world around you, you see different things… every view, at every moment takes on new dimensions…

Each moment of these last 5 months has seemed more vivid than “every-day life” was before the tour. Being in a new place every day and sleeping in a new place almost every night keeps you on your toes. I feel like I notice details I never noticed before, and value things that I never thought would be important. On top of this personal journey, I am bringing 17 children along with me. The way that a child see’s the world is unique… but the way that a young child from Uganda looks and see’s the world in America is even more astounding. They see things that I don’t. They pick up on people’s actions and behaviors when I would assume that it would go right over their heads. They ask questions about the bible and question why our world does not operate as we know it should. I am amazed, I am blown away, and I want to stay in this place for as long as I can.

I want to get as close as I can to seeing the world in the way that my children do. Though it will never be possible for me to literally be in their shoes and see through their eyes, I have done my best to come as close as I can… the following includes many of the fun things we have done on tour, but instead of listing where we have gone, I’ll do my best to share how I saw a little bit of what my children were seeing…

Red Water:

One night our host was making Kool-Aid. The host had already poured the red powder into a clear pitcher and was then running cold water from the sink into the pitcher to make the drink. When Brivett (8) saw this, his eyes got huge and he looked frightened. I stood there and thought… why is he scared? What is he seeing… what does he see that I am overlooking? And then I realized it. I got down on his level and explained “Brivett… the water coming from the faucet is not bright red. Our host is making a special kind of juice. The water from the faucet is clear, and when it hits the red powder it turns the water red.” He was shocked to hear how we make “juice” sometimes, but was quite relieved to hear that the water running from the faucet indeed NOT “red”.

A Carnival:

I had the opportunity to attend a carnival with Alice (9) and Dorcas(8) in Phoenix, AZ. When we arrived our host began asking them what “rides” they would like to go on. They were completely confused… What is a ride? And how far way would the ride take them? I quickly suggested we stick to bouncy houses and inflatable slides and they were much more comfortable with this idea. As I was explaining to them about standing in line and taking their shoes off to bounce, they looked around with huge, wide eyes and took in all of the people, the colors, and the lights and energy that come with a carnival. I was wondering to myself: “what are they thinking? What stands out to them the most? The lights? The food? The sounds?” when Alice interrupted my thoughts “Auntie Jenny… all of these children… do they not have aunties or uncles to take care of them?” It was then that I saw what she was seeing… children running EVERYWHERE… completely unattended by any adults. To a child who is used to following every direction we give them, waiting quietly in lines for their turn, and never asking for anything extra… this was complete chaos… and the only solution she could think of was that they had no one to care for them… and she had compassion for them, feeling sad that they did not have an auntie to hold their hand… I praised her for being so good and not running around like crazy. I then had a blast watching Alice and Dorcas light up the whole carnival with their smiles of joy and excitement as they jumped in a bouncy house for the first time ever.

Snow!

For three months the children prayed for snow. I mean earnestly prayed for snow… at bedtime, at meals, and during devotions each day. They had heard of it, they knew they could somehow make it into balls and throw it at each other… but they had never touched it… until… we were in Park City, UT. While eating breakfast with Gaster (8) and Timothy (7), I noticed the rain turn to snow! When I told them to look outside Gaster shouted “Praise God! Thank you God!” and fell to his knees in rejoice/excitement! When they finally went outside they did not know what to think… or say. Timothy tried desperately to scrape the tiny dusting of snow into his pockets to “save it for later.” Gaster was happy until his jacket hood fell backwards and then snow fell lightly on his head and he shouted “Owe! Owe! Owe! The snow is pinching me auntie! It is hot! No… it is cold! Ouch!” (he finally did adjust and loved it.) I guess not knowing what to expect would throw me off too! Later that day the whole choir was blessed with an hour of playing in 6 inches of snow altogether. Their prayers came true, and their dreams of snowballs, snowmen, and snow angels finally became a reality!

Christmas In America:

You have not seen excitement until you witness African children seeing a Christmas tree full of gifts for the first time ever! They are not hoping to get “what they asked for” because they did not ask for anything. My children were excited beyond belief to receive a candy cane… let alone all of the presents that our Choir 38 family was blessed with by many donors along the way. They were elated to open every single gift, even if they did not know what it was. One of my favorite moments was sitting next to Damalie (8) when she opened a portable CD player (for listening to music on the bus!) The wrapping paper flew off and she shouted “Hurray! Hurray” Praise God! Isn’t it beautiful! Oh it is so beautiful!… Excuse me Auntie… what is it?” When Damalie looks at a gift, her definition of its beauty is not based on what it can do for her, but instead its just the fact that it is for her. She saw it as beautiful, without even knowing what it was. I think we could all learn a lot by the way Damalie sees the world.

Well friends, I have many, many more things to tell you about, but I have surely already written too much. I hope that through these updates I can communicate to each of you how much your support for me being on this tour is changing my life… but even more so, I hope that you can SEE the difference you are making in the lives of each one of these children. They will never forget each of the “firsts” they had here in America, and because of supporters making this tour possible for them to see America, they will go home and get the gift of a lifetime… an education! Thank you for blessing my kids through your support for me!

Sincerely,
Auntie Jenny

Host Family Transformed

Uncle Ryan, Bright, Richard and Emmason with the Rush Family

“Every single day, hour and moment has been a blessing. I view our lives as ‘before we knew the Choir’ and ‘now that we know the Choir’. Our lives have been forever transformed!”

From the Rush Family in New Jersey